“My sense of centrality decreases and the influence of Jesus within me increases.”
Earl Creps – speaking of the inner change of persons who begin to live missionally.
Here is one way of understanding what it means to be a MissionalChurch: a community of persons eagerly living for the Kingdom of God to come.
Reggie McNeal, one of my teachers at Fuller Theological Seminary, made an interesting observation during my time in his class. He said that most church people are usually reluctant for the Kingdom of God to come. The unchurched persons living in our communities anticipate God’s Kingdom with great urgency. But those in the church are generally reluctant because church membership has become club membership. Familiar customs, traditions and relationships have been developed and club members don’t want to risk losing all of that with God coming along and doing something new.
Club membership thinking is rarely recognized as such by those in the church, continues McNeal. Church members love God. They want to be about something that blesses others. Yet, in often subtle ways, they fall in love with the familiar and comfortable. Certain ways of doing things become the dominant culture of a local church. New people are invited to join, of course. But they are invited only as long as they don’t move the furniture around and change cherished customs. No longer are church members willing to give-up their life, figuratively speaking, for the great commission of making new believers. They would rather settle for protecting the way things have always been done.
I believe the primary reason for club membership thinking among church members is fear. Change in the world is growing exponentially – at a rather dizzying rate – and it always feels that we are about to lose our footing. If we can maintain familiar customs and language at church our lives are steadied. The winds of change may beat around us but at least in our church we can find a hiding place; a place where our spirits may rest. Trouble is – that is idolatry. If we seek rest in anyone or anything other than Jesus, we have misplaced our source of hope for the future.
So what are we to do? According to the scriptures, we are to confess our idolatry and again place our hope in Jesus alone. And we are to pray. Pray that in following Jesus we may discover that our fears are absorbed in the cross and we become bold once again to look, listen and take notice of the new thing that God is doing all around us. Someone once said that prayer is “fast forwarding” the future – asking that God’s Kingdom will come, whatever it may mean for us personally. So the question becomes, do you have the courage to ask for the Kingdom to come?